This time on Pixels to Polygons we’re going to do things a little bit differently. We’re just going to do a straight up review of Mighty No. 9 (MN9). We’re not going to be comparing it to Mega Man, and we’ll also ignore the history of delays and such. I want to review the game and not the tributes and circumstances surrounding it. It is its own independent product, so it deserves its own attention. I want to give fair insight into how I view this game as a huge fan of this genre (I do speed runs, no damage/death runs, etc), as I feel that this game has been subject to trendy hate. I am not saying it’s perfect, but I would like to give people an honest impression of the game as the backlash has been too harsh. An important note before I jump in is that I played this on the PS4 and didn’t face the frame rate and technical issues that seem to exist, on the WiiU they seem particularly persistent. A couple of other little notes: I turned off the English voice acting in favour of the Japanese voice acting, and then I switched to the retro-style soundtrack. These changes made for a much better sound experience. Now onwards with the review!
MN9 has you traverse a decent number of stages, starting with a lovely intro stage to get you used to the game and the enjoyable dash and absorption mechanics, 8 boss stages, 2 post-boss stages and then the final boss stage. Each stage has its own flair that I quite enjoyed. For example, Countershade’s stage allows you to travel left and right in the stage, having you chase the sniper laser so that you can chip away at Countershade’s life. You track him down several times (how and where changes based on difficulty) and get him to cower away for a final boss battle. Or Brandish’s stage lets you fight from the tops of many moving vehicles, where you can chance pushing the screen faster than it scrolls in order to blast through the level, or take your time as you carefully consider each move. Heck, there is even a semi-stealth stage when you get to play as Call. There were a few moments that were kind of jarring and cheap with respect to level design though, and every instance is connected to the colour purple. The giant purple circles in Dynatron’s level, and dash and drop sections in the 2 post-boss stages are perfect examples of this. Purple is an instant death, even with a damage boost. These sections didn’t feel fair as there is a weird area of effect that seems to kill Beck and friends when they don’t appear to be touching the instant-deathtraps. These moments are not frequent enough to start hating the game though. While I am not absolutely blown away by the levels, I think there is a decent amount of diversity in the levels and environments to keep things fresh and fun.
To compliment the fun levels are the great controls (aside from one aspect that I’ll get into momentarily). I always felt like I was totally in control of Beck and never cheated by anything that happened. If I died, it was because I was pushing it too much (I really like jump dashing far too frequently) or just being careless. Beck and I got along just great and had a jolly ol’ good time. Where I felt the controls didn’t work too well though is in the weapon switching system. You use the two left bumpers to cycle through a menu of your weapons, then press triangle to pick the weapon you want. You can switch the order of these and even assign three weapons to three different hot keys (which I think everybody does the same combo of blade and bomb, then whatever). Triangle will also switch between your current hot key item, the previously used weapon, and then your standard shot. While the weapon switching does work, it’s clunky and takes a while to get used to. It’s disappointing that this component suffers greatly as the rest of the control scheme feels so natural. Mind you, once you get comfortable with the game and start speeding through it you’re likely only going to use the hot keys anyways. I am just always disappointed when you have to think about controls.
The weapons can also be quite a lot of fun to use as they have a range of diversity. Most of their use, aside from the two aforementioned weapons, is exclusive to boss battles but I don’t see that as a hindrance or downside. I have never really been a fan of having to go through a choose-your-path adventure in a very particular order because it makes your life way easier (I’m looking at you Armored Armadillo). I can see why it can be boring for some to have the main weapon be so useful, but I welcome the flexibility so you don’t have to get so hung up on boss orders unless you’re worrying about speed runs. Even better is that a lot of the bosses can be dealt with quite effectively with your main weapon so you have even more freedom to choose your path.
I think the game looks pretty good too. While it would have been nice to choose a less muted colour palette and allow for greater contrast, it still looks fine. It also would have been nicer if we saw tweaks to some of the characters so they weren’t so reminiscent of the inspirational material. But I think the game is inoffensive in its art-style and everything is conveyed appropriately.
The sound department is really the only component that I really have complaints about. I switched to the retro soundtrack as I think it much better suits the game. There were definitely some decent tracks, but anytime I try to remember them it’s quite difficulty to think of anything particularly noteworthy. Where the sound is really lacking is with the voice acting. I didn’t get very far until I switched to the Japanese voice actors as opposed to the English ones. There might be components of the English voice acting that are fine, but I couldn’t get far enough to tell. I was quite disappointed. But since I had the option to switch my sound preferences, I went from cringing to really enjoying the sound design.
Overall I think this is a pretty good game. While it certainly didn’t leave a major impression on me, I did have a lot of fun playing it. Goofing around with the dash mechanic and taking risks with it made a lot of sections quite enjoyable and is a shining component of the game. I beat the game 4 times in a relatively short timeframe so it must be doing something right.
The final analogy is the only part of this review where we will bring Mega Man into the equation. If Mega Man were an eating establishment it would be a fine dining experience in a relaxed atmosphere. While you have to bring some refinement to the table to really get everything from the experience, things are casual enough so that most can enjoy their meal. Mighty No. 9 is a fast-food restaurant emulating the fine dining experience. It has some elements that you enjoy with your fine dining establishment, but it also brings in a little extra something in order to make the experience comparable, but unique enough to have merit. While fine dining is always better, sometimes it is nice to have fast-food from time to time. So I give Mighty No. 9 a score of: veggie dog out of risotto balls in a fresh tomato and herb sauce. I definitely recommend you check it out if you’re a fan of the genre if you have an open mind and aren’t expecting Mega Man. Seriously, I really had a lot of fun and I am excited to play it again very soon (got my under hour speed run done, it’s onto the hardest mode next :)). Any negative comments I had are quite minor, but I think highlight where other reviews were hyperbolic in how detrimental they were to the experience. It truly is fun. Give it a fair shot and ignore circumstances and just enjoy the game for what it is.
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